Wednesday, June 03, 2015

When I Grow Up, Part Three

I graduated high school with a Business Education diploma. I had become an excellent typist (100 wpm on a manual machine, 105 on electric) and competent stenographer (dictation at up to 120 wpm). I entered the business world as a typing pool stenographer with the telephone company, and over the next five years worked as a secretary in several different settings. This was the "Mad Men" era, and I can affirm that the show wasn't at all far off from the way things really were!

In 1967 I married Joe, who was destined to spend the next four years in the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man. My parents had been right about one thing: Wherever we lived, I never had any trouble finding a job as a secretary. Civil Service work on the Navy base at the first duty station wasn't very interesting, but it was convenient and paid well. Later I worked in educational settings at Old Dominion University and The Citadel as we moved about at the Navy's whim.

After discharge, Joe resumed his college education and once again I quickly and easily found work in Akron at one of the rubber companies. After about a year, a unique position became available and I was fortunate to land it. We were living in Kent, Ohio, and a pair of long-haired attorneys were enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame by handling cases related to the tragic situation of May 4 and other hippie-related work. Their secretary was leaving, and I got the job. Howard and Bruce wore blue jeans to the office and tried to keep their weights the same so they would fit in the suit that was kept in the office closet in the event they had to go to court suddenly. They made their money through personal injury but the work they loved was defending hippies, drug cases, and the local branch of Hell's Angels. Sometimes they weren't paid with money but rather with a gun or a bag of marijuana.

With Joe studying late into the night, I had taken up two different ways of filling my evenings. Training and then serving as a help line (suicide prevention) volunteer was rewarding work. And I had my own typewriter at home, so I registered with the university to become a dissertation typist, which was interesting and lucrative. I continued this work after leaving Howard and Bruce to become a mother.

Somehow dissertation typing led to being an at-home medical transcriptionist where my middleman would drop off an envelope of tapes each day at noon and pick up the work I'd done in the previous twenty-four hours. By this time we'd moved back to my home town. I was earning a good living doing the transcription but missed being around people once the children started school, so I accepted an opportunity to serve as a volunteer in the local hospital's pastoral care department.

One thing led to another, as they do. It's been 53 years since high school graduation. I might have been a good librarian. I probably would have been a good nurse. I'm still a hell of a typist, though I don't know if I can do 105 wpm any more. I use my shorthand regularly in a variety of settings.

At fourteen, when the library called to me, I'd never heard of a hospital chaplain and probably would have turned up my nose at the thought of being one. My parents certainly would have had no part of such a thing. When my children were nearly grown, I finally went to college and then on to graduate school/seminary, and that's what I do now (whether I'm grown up or not!) and I love every minute of it. I'm back to caring for hurting people, listening to their anguish, responding to traumas, supporting those who have received terrible news.

And, yes, it is at that same hospital where I was a Candy Striper. Funny how things work out.

*Dear Mr. Jackson,

We have just decided to change the design of the letterhead we have used for more than ten years. It is our feeling that the present design is old-fashioned and does not create a favorable impression. We understand that you are a commercial artist and that you have designed letterheads for other organizations in this city. We wonder whether you would consider designing one for us. . . .


rappy said...

Nancy, this has been a fascinating read! Thank you for sharing it!

stitchinpenny said...

You had a very fortunate life. My sister took secretarial classes, but her husband and his family didn't want her to work outside the home and was in the country so she moved to in home childcare. In spite of efforts to keep her under their thumbs - she soon earned as much as the husband just doing daycare. Her husband then sent his friends with children to her and his friends paid him not her. You made wise decisions and a very wise one was your choice of life partner. It really can make a huge difference.

AnnieO said...

Your life's road has had consistency you probably never imagined because you became a secretary. But make no mistake, it was YOU all along that employers wanted! I loved reading the growing up of Nancy!

Quiltdivajulie said...

You came, you saw, you learned, you became. I'm honored to know you.

Barbara Anne said...

What amazing opportunities you wisely chose to take advantage of, the timing being perfect, God's hand in things is (now) abundantly apparent! You grew up into who you were meant to be. I once read that ministry is your talents used to meet the world's needs. By grace, you're there.

I was told that, as a nurse, I'd never have a problem finding a job and that was always true.

Oh, and thank you for the translation of that shorthand! ;)


Patrica Dowell said...

Amazing the long and winding road that leads us exactly to where we are supposed to be. I have often tried to explain this exact process to my children as life's disappointments or unexpected turns have thrown them for a loop and in truth I've often had to given myself the same pep talk! Thanks for the insight into your journey.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I graduated in '67 and my father offered to lend me the money to go to college. I remember that he offered to pay by brother's way through college just the year before. Then one of my many aunts asked why go to college when my husband would take care of me. I never got married, so who would be taking care of me all these years? I never realized that parents gave their children advice on what courses to take in school or told them what they should do after school.
I guess we all come from different circumstances and it's good to hear how others were raised.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me that I had wonderful supportive parents who loved and encouraged each of their children. They also thought that college should be for anyone with the desire to go, girl or boy!! giving my mom and extra hug tonight.

Vivian said...

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. --- Lao Tzu

It's always interesting to look back at where the paths we chose have taken us. Thanks for a wonderful share!